Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization plan as Dr. Penny Ballem and Minister Arian Dix look on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Editorial: COVID toll in B.C. limited because health measures work

To claim that we didn’t need to do anything to combat COVID is absurd nonsense

We’re victims of our own success.

Many of those who have downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, if not outright denied its existence, are now pointing to relatively low death figures and dropping case numbers in an attempt to argue that our public health officials and political leaders overreacted in bringing in lockdowns and travel restrictions that have, admittedly, caused economic pain for people. They point to these numbers and say, see? The pandemic isn’t really that bad.

Of course this argument is ridiculous, as it deliberately ignores the obvious: the number of people who have died in British Columbia is relatively low and our hospital system did not become overwhelmed because we took these steps to combat the virus. What would have happened if we indeed hadn’t taken measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 through our communities, or those measures hadn’t proven to be successful? We don’t have to dig too deeply to find out. It’s all over the news.

How the naysayers continue to justify this claptrap when they see what has happened in India, Brazil, and even, to some extent our closest neighbour to the south, the United States, is a mystery. These countries show very clearly what happens if public health measures are not taken at all or are not adequate. When lockdowns come too late or not at all, and the need to wear masks to slow transmission is ignored, or actively discouraged. India is being overwhelmed by COVID-19 as we speak, with terrible images of crematoriums that cannot keep up with demand as the dead literally pile up. In Brazil an outright mocking administration has left the hospital system in that country to virtually collapse under the weight of the COVID caseload and hundreds of thousands died. In the United States, where the COVID-19 response was patchy at best, almost 600,000 people have lost their lives.

Closer to home, Manitoba’s health system is overwhelmed by the third wave, with the government forced to send people out of the province for medical care because the ICUs are full. Ontario saw a huge third wave surge. So did Alberta and B.C. What has started to bring these surges back under control? Public health measures including various levels of lockdown. The numbers are perfectly clear. These measures work.

So to claim that we didn’t need to do anything to combat COVID is absurd nonsense. We cannot take our relative success for granted. Too many people in B.C. have died from and continue to die from COVID. Abandoning health measures because they have been successful in limiting the tragedy would be nothing less than catastrophic.

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